Alanis lifted her hands to her face, unable to see them or anything else. Wherever his spell took her, there was nothing to be seen. She took long, slow steps, hoping they would lead her somewhere, but after walking awhile it became clear she was getting nowhere.
"Alexander, where are you?" She said on a whisper into the dark.
A sound emanated from beside her, sounding a lot like someone exhaling. She could almost feel their breath on the back of her neck.
"Alexander, is that you?" Her head whipped from side to side and she stumbled, disoriented by her lack of surroundings. She began to tremble in fear, when there was no answer.
Where am I?
Where did he take me?
Again, she shouted out his name, terrified by the darkness that shrouded her, and how utterly alone she felt within it.
"Do not be frightened, I am here with you," his voice whispered back.
She turned on her heels, towards his voice. As she stumbled forward, she met with him. Her small hands flew up to his dress robe, stopping when they reached beneath the silken cover to his chest. If she were right of mind, she would have been mortified, touching him in such an intimate area, instead her inner instincts implored her to cling to him for protection.
"Where are we?" she questioned frantically. "I want to go back, take me back."
He took her by the hands.
"We can't, not until the effects of the ritual have run their course." He gripped her hands tightly and pulled her close. "Clear your mind. Think back to that day, Alanis. Tell me where you were, let me see it."
"I can't." She panicked, grasping desperately at his arms. "I can't see anything, something happened to me."
"That doesn't matter. Relax your mind, let go of your fear," he replied, joining her, by holding her arms. "Face them, don't run from them."
It was just as the old handmaiden suggested, earlier. She was going to need to face her fears to get what she wanted-answers. Besides, there was no use running, they were both in this together, so it seemed.
"Calm your breathing," he reminded her gently, loosening his grasp on her.
Alanis closed her eyes and took a deep breath. She counted back in her head from ten, noticing how with each number light crept into view. When she reached one, she opened her eyes and found herself alone in the waiting room of the settlement hospital.
This isn't right, Alanis thought, puzzled. Why am I seeing this?
This didn't make sense. Alexander said she would be able to remember what she had forgotten during her last days in Larska, but this memory was something she remembered quite clearly. In fact, it was a memory she wished she could forget entirely.
It was the night James died.
Whenever she spoke the young knight's name, she would often think of Justin's older brother, James. He was her first Official and one of her closest friends. He was also her first love, though he never knew it or reciprocated her advances. It had been nearly two years since she last said his name out loud, but when she did, it was just as bitter as she feared it would be.
Earlier that day, Justin found him in his apartment. James was lying, unresponsive on the floor near his door. There were no signs of distress or clues to what had happened to him. Despite having the aid of the best settlement doctors, there was nothing they could do to save him.
"I still don't understand, what happened to him, Justin?" Alanis said, her small voice trembled as she spoke.
The doctors had no explanation as to what happened, all they knew was he suffered some sort of brain damage from a bleed and would never wake again. For now, all they could do was keep him comfortable as his body shut down.
Without a word, Justin took her by the hand and walked her out of the hospital room. Alanis gripped his hand, fearing she'd fall with each step she took. She wanted to be strong for him, James was his brother after all, but she was too overcome by grief to follow through on it.
How would she get over losing one of her best friends-her first crush.
Unable to keep her promise, she fell to Justin's feet. Her sobs caught the attention of several orderlies disinfecting the waiting room.
Alanis felt herself being pulled from her memory to another. Her vision soon grew dark and her stomach flipped, forcing her to her knees where she covered her mouth.
What is this, she thought while leaning into the grass ahead of her. I think I'm going to the sick. She began to retch, but nothing came up with each heave. This had to be another memory, but she couldn't recall it.
"Stay down, Alanis. We're almost there," Justin whispered from her side.
Alanis lowered her body into the grass, feeling his hand, as it rubbed circles across her back in an effort to ease her nausea. When she lifted her eyes, she drew back, noticing Anna at his side.
How can this be, she wondered, looking her friend over before reacting. It was definitely her. It wasn't the night playing tricks on her. Staring back at her, were the same beautiful blue eyes Alanis had come to admire. Though, her golden hair was different, cut at her shoulders.
"Anna," Alanis gasped, suddenly finding the strength to throw her arms around her. "I thought you were dead. What the hell is going on?"
Just a week ago, Justin delivered a letter, written by Anna, to her. In it, she apologized for not being able to see her before they took her for final treatments, since she was showing signs of The Burn. She implored her to live her life to the fullest, and many other things that didn't matter to Alanis at the time, as she was trying to wrap her head around losing her friend.
"There's no time to explain," Justin replied, his voice thick with worry. "They're going to come looking for us soon, if they're not already."
"Who is coming for us?"
"The other Officials, Alanis. We got to go, now."
"Where are we going?"
Justin looked to the dark body of water ahead. "We've got to cross Larska River."
"What? It's too dark. And the current-I can barely move."
"Alanis, do what he says," Anna interrupted, her hand grabbed hers and pulled her to her feet. "Trust him, we can't be caught. If they find us we're as good as dead."
There was a flash as her memories continued to awaken. Her memory skipped ahead and as she recalled where she was, panic set in.
She was cold, her clothes wet, and her body submerged in the icy river. Within that moment, the current picked up, causing Alanis' grip to break from Anna's hand. She struggled to get back, but was so disoriented by the dark that she slipped further away.
Alanis could hear them calling her name as she fought against the strengthening rapids. Just as she managed to face the shore, something caught her leg, pulling her under, trapping her.
Beneath her, in the dark water, were glowing eyes.
Gray, haunting ones.
They peered up at her through the dark water, watching silently while she struggled to break free. They were the last thing she saw before she blacked out.
Though the memory was over, she pulled herself from the river to the shore. As her eyes adjusted, she could make out the moving water, as black at the night sky. The chilly breeze began to pick up, and soon it began to sting her cheeks.
"Larska River," she said shivering, watching as her breath rolled off her lips. "I was there that night, with Justin and Anna."
She could remember it all vividly now, how he carried her away from her apartment into the dark of the night. At the time, she had no idea what was going on, but after everything she was told in Berthold, it was clear that her sickness had actually been transcendence.
"He tried to get us out of Larska. He was trying to save us." She paused while looking out at the dark water, where the moon's face reflection rippled on its surface. "My hand slipped and I was taken under, and I-" drowned, but how could that be if I am still alive.
"Sorrow found you-gray eyes in the dark water," Alexander replied ahead of her.
She looked up at him, realizing she had never left his side.
"Alexander, you could see it, my memory?"
If he had, then he could tell the others she wasn't a spy. Coming from him they would have to believe it.
"Ioci'knu, uer riliosi'huld lo' lahre si colmka," Alexander chanted then the air between them pushed them apart, forcing both to fall to the ground violently.
The vision of her last night in Larska changed again. This time it was daytime and they had been taken to a grouping of old trees near Berthold castle. Her eyes adjusted to the sunlight before she found the will to move. She sat up slowly within the shadow of a tall pine.
Beneath the tree, Alexander laid on his side, unconscious.
Alanis closed her eyes, fighting the urge to cry out as she recalled her memory. Her hands lifted to her head, clutching her face so hard it was beginning to turn red with pressure. Earlier in the day, she was certain she'd be planning her trip back home, but that wasn't the case any longer, she knew. No, she could never go back, she was stuck here, in this place, now, and possibly forever.
"The boy has been through so much," a voice echoed through the treetops above where she sat, "first his parents, now this..."
Where were the voices coming from, Alanis wondered as she lowered her hands to the grass. Inside her head, a memory played out. Strange as it was it felt like it was hers even though it wasn't.
"So it is decided, Master Simon," the shaman spoke from beneath his veil, "the Sorrow is to be appeased?"
"Yes, I'm afraid we have no other choice. He is the last of his blood, we can't risk it."
Last of his blood, who were they talking about?
"Come here, young king," the shaman said, lowering his cloak from his head. He smiled at the boy, a soft and pained smile. "Let me see your hands."
The child stepped forward, obeying the man without hesitation. Alanis felt herself jump as she caught a glimpse of his face, realizing the young king they were talking about was Alexander.
Though he was stoic, she could feel how scared he was inside. She opened her arms wanting to take him with her, wanting to protect him, but knew, whatever she was seeing had happened to him long ago and could not be influenced by her will.
The young king walked through her, to the shaman, where they sat at a table littered with old scrolls and dusty books. He offered his hands, consenting to him.
"You understand what will happen to you, if you go through with this?" The shaman's deep blue eyes measured Alexander, concern for his well-being was evident.
"Yes, sir," he said politely. His gray eyes looked to him with such resolve Alanis was in awe of his strength. "It is my wish to protect my kingdom at any cost."
The shaman lifted a gnarled brown stick from the tabletop, handing it to the king.
"Then close your eyes, my boy, and don't let go until I say so."
Alexander's hand gripped the stick and he clenched his eyes. As the shaman began to chant, in the same foreign dialect Alexander had used for the ritual, his heart began to pound. At first, she thought it was her own heart quickening inside of her, but realized she had been feeling everything he was.
He was going through with it all because it was expected of him. He was about to give up something precious in return, for what, to buy safety for his kingdom? What were they going to do him, what were they going to take? It was clear whatever it was, Alexander wasn't ready, but had to.
"Stop! Leave him alone," Alanis spoke, though her plea was in vain, her sudden outburst started a chain reaction that ended the vision.
While the echoes of the king's memory faded, Alanis sat against the tall pine. Her heart ached and she was exhausted, having witnessed so much suffering in one evening. Even though it wasn't her burden, she found herself replaying his memory in her head as if it were.
Beneath the shadows, she wept silently, feeling shame with herself. Her priorities to get home were of no importance, yet here she was, feeling sorry for herself.
"Alanis," Alexander whispered above her, his voice was different, softer. Before she could respond, he took her by the hand and helped her to her feet. His stormy eyes flickered with emotion for the first time as they met with hers.
"Are you-" she stopped, confused by how familiar his touch felt in that moment. "All right..."
"I can't believe it," he said in disbelief while his hand lifted between them to touch her face. His gray eyes studied her as he did, like he was seeing her for the first time. "I can see you."
She sighed, unable to mask the pleasure his touch gave. It sent a wave of goosebumps down her arms and legs and set her heart to pound excitedly. For a moment, she found herself believing he felt the same. No, this didn't feel like wishful thinking on her part, not by the look he was giving her.
"Huh," she whispered wetting her lips, "what do you mean?"
"I can see," he said again while dropping his hand from her face.
His head tilted back and his eyes scanned the sky above them in marvel as he took in the scenery surrounding them. He smiled, quite pleasantly, while releasing her hand.
"What?" she replied, still puzzled by what he was saying.
Before he could answer, her knees buckled forcing her to the ground. Inside her head the sky swirled dizzily as the king took her into his arms once more. She could feel their shared vision starting to slip away back into the void that had terrified her earlier, back into the nothing that consumed her.
It was then, she realized what Alexander meant, and what had been taken from him during his memory.
The memory he shared with her was beginning to make sense as she pieced everything together. It was clear now, that shaman had taken his sight away from him as a boy, but why would he do such a thing?
As she thought further, her suspicions were confirmed as she recalled the distant glances he would give her. How his eyes never made connection with hers or anyone else's. She had to admit, he was skilled at hiding his handicap. Had she not gone through with the ritual, she would have never known he was blind otherwise.
Beside them, the stone walls of the great hall reappeared, leaving them on the same steps they had sat on earlier. His arms loosened and fell away from her as his guard marched down the aisle to check on them.
While they regained their bearings, not a word was spoken. She held on to her curiosities regarding his blindness, deciding it best to keep his secret to herself. In the meantime, she would wait until he questioned her about it, that was, if he even knew she was aware that she knew.
Now that the ritual had proven her innocence, the only thing left to do was figure out what she was going to next. She was going to need a job, something to support herself, since her stay in Berthold was looking indefinite.
Anonymous 1 - Thank you. Hope you liked this chapter!
Anonymous 2 - Here's the update. Sorry about the wait.
Anonymous 3 - Thanks. I'm happy you liked it.
Author's Note: Alrighty then, I've officially set up my computer to do some serious typing. It will be my aim to get updates out every two weeks or weekly, once I get in the swing of things.
Soooo how did everyone like this chapter? Were you surprised by Alexander's blindness? (Unless you've read the original draft)
Anyway, I did change up some things from my first draft. Justin didn't drown Alanis in the river this time, which makes more sense in the long run. And Justin is coupled with Anna sooner. I also added more information regarding Alexander's blindness and how it came to be. You'll be getting more information to why he was blinded by the shaman in later chapters.